Two Chuck Berry Stories From Michael Cohl And Triumph

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, the true king of rock ‘n’ roll died yesterday in St. Charles County, Missouri. He was 90 years old.

Though Berry stopped touring a few years ago, I always held out small hope that I would get to see him perform live. Clearly that will never happen now.

While Berry will be lauded for his music, almost as much will be made about his mercurial and sometimes controversial behaviours and personality.

What’s absolutely clear is that Berry was a bigger-than-life music personality who won’t soon be forgotten.

I went through some of my old interview transcripts and found a couple anecdotes about Berry.

The first is an outtake from an interview I did with super-promoter Michael Cohl for a story at Huffington Post Music Canada. When the conversation turned to some of the stranger music personalities he’d dealt with in his career, Cohl was very discreet. He did, however, provide this one Berry-related tale:

“I think I’ve dealt with most of them,” said Cohl, of the most idiosyncratic entertainers. “I think that Rodney Dangerfield story’s pretty eccentric. So’s Bob Marley’s. I mean, listen, we’ve dealt with Chuck Berry. He’s nerve-wracking. He wants to be paid for every little thing. He wants to be paid per smile in some cases, but at the end of the day he says, ‘Don’t you worry, it’s an 8 o o’clock show? I’ll be at the building at 7:30 and have my money ready.’ And doesn’t want anyone to pick him up… so in some ways he’s the simplest, but the simplest can also be the most nerve-wracking because you’re sitting there and it’s 7 o’clock and you go ‘I have no idea where this guy is.’ He’s not in his room. He’s not in the building. He says he’s going to be here at 7:30… I wonder. Inevitably, he shows up.

“Yeah, he’s extraordinary, let’s face it. He’ll make you crazy.”

The other good Berry story I uncovered came from Triumph bassist Mike Levine, who I spoke to when the band released their Live at Sweden Rock Festival CD/DVD a few years back. Levine apparently experienced the unique challenge that is being the local band backing Berry.

Levine explained why in this outtake from my interview with him:

“I got a good Chuck Berry story,” said Levine. “I can’t remember the name of the band, but it was in the early ’70s and we were pretty popular, playing high schools and colleges and stuff, and we get a call from Queen’s University and they say, ‘Can you back up for Chuck Berry?’ And he’s playing here, blah, blah, blah, you play a set and you’ll back Chuck up, so we said, ‘Oh that’ll be great.’

“So we played our set. We’re sitting in the dressing room. We still haven’t met Chuck. About 10 minutes before show time he arrives and he opens his guitar case and there were three things in it other than his guitar: airplane bottles of liquor, a wad of cash, and a gun. And he said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to be playing tonight.’

“We go, ‘What do you mean?’

“‘Well, the place is sold out and I told the promoter I want more money or I’m not going on.’ Which I found out later he’s very famous for doing.

“So we were, ‘Well, just in case we do play, what songs are we going to do?’ And he said, ‘Just follow me.’

“We go ‘OK’ and the promoter comes in and Chuck wrangled an extra $5,000 out of him or something. Insisted on being paid in cash before we got on. He got everything he wanted. We got onstage and he’d turn around and yell ‘Johnny B. Goode, E. Count it in.’ We played all the songs. It went really good. We had fun. And after it was done he said goodbye, packed up his stuff and left.”

Watch Chuck Berry perform “My Ding-A-Ling”

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Elias Theodorou Has A Shampoo Contract Because Of His Hypnotic Hair

Elias Theodorou

Elias Theodorou

UFC fighter Elias Theodorou happens to have a luscious, hypnotic head of hair.

Because of this, he also has a new pitchman contract with Pert Plus shampoo.

And because we a) think this is hilarious, and b) support anything UFC fighters do to earn themselves extra cash in lieu of that shitty Reebok contract they have to work under, Sarah talked to Elias about this development.

To read the full story go to Fightland by clicking here.

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Sima Azimi, Afghanistan’s First Female Wushu Instructor

Sima Azimi

Sima Azimi

Shaolin Wushu Club of Afghanistan might be among the bravest, boldest martial arts clubs in the world right now.

That’s because the group, led by Sima Azimi, is bringing martial artist training to women in a conservative society where female improvement of this sort is frowned upon.

Sarah wrote about this for Asian World Of Martial Arts.

To read the story click here.

 

 

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Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man (Album Review)

Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

It’s fitting that British triller Flo Morrissey and American drawler Matthew E. White met for the first time at a Lee Hazlewood tribute night in 2015 because the pair’s new album Gentlewoman, Ruby Man has a clear “we want to be like Lee & Nancy” air throughout.

If it is an act of copycatting it’s a respectful one. Where Lana Del Rey gets her retro cues by searching through Jackie Kennedy photo archives on Pinterest, one gets the sense the 10 duet covers on Gentlewoman, Ruby Man were selected after exploring a well-curated record collection in someone’s rec room basement.

It’s not a total ’70s revival trip. The pair manage to turn Frank Ocean (“Thinking ‘Bout You”), James Blake (“The Colour In Anything”) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Heaven Can Wait”) tracks into effective grayscale mopers.

That said, Morrissey and White’s best work comes from their classic reinterpretations. Their take on Nino Ferrer’s “Looking For You” has even more gravitas when you know the French-Italian singer’s tragic story. It’s exceedingly difficult to mess up Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” and their version’s tinkling keyboard flourish will lock itself between your ears long after you listen to it. Even more addictive is Morrissey and White’s buoyant reimagine of the Grease theme song. Striped of its context as part of a musical and careful calibrated to avoid any American Idol talent show-type airs, “Grease” turns into a groovy, Feist-ian bedroom jammer. Best, though, may be the pair’s take on the George Harrison spiritual “Govindam.” At risk of Beatles blaspheming, this modern redo, complete with its winding, mobius strip rhythmic track, may perhaps be better than the original.

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Arcade Fire, Blue Rodeo, Patrick Watson On Polaris Podcast EP4

Arcade Fire photo courtesy Polaris Music Prize.

Arcade Fire photo courtesy Polaris Music Prize.

Arcade Fire, Blue Rodeo and Patrick Watson were among the acts we spoke to for episode four of the Polaris Podcast.

This episode was focused on four of the albums that received Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize designation last year.

Those were:

* Blue Rodeo’s Five Days In July, which won in the 1986-95 public vote category
* Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Miss America, which won in the 1986-95 jury vote category
* Arcade Fire’s Funeral, which won in the 1996-2005 public vote category
* Lhasa’s La Llorona, which won in the 1996-2005 jury vote category

Listen to the podcast via iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or Acast. Or right here…

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Eric Roberts vs. Robert Vaughn, Podcast Style

Eric Roberts and Robert Vaughn

Eric Roberts and Robert Vaughn

We here at Risky Fuel believe in the principle that you “find your people.”

So if, say, you’re the sort of person who is super-obsessed with late actor/spy Robert Vaughn, all you have to do is check in with someone who’s obsessed with actor/cartoon villain Eric Roberts to put together that the two of them had worked together on the film A Cry From Within.

Next thing you know Sarah is on episode #42 of the Eric Roberts Is The Fucking Man podcast talking to host Doug Tilley about Vaughn and Roberts.

You can listen to/download the podcast by going here.

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Morrissey Exhumes The Smiths Live In Hamilton

Morrissey live in Hamilton.

Morrissey live in Hamilton.

LIVE: Morrissey
February 14, 2000
Hamilton Place
Hamilton, Ontario

“Half A Person.”

“Meat Is Murder.”

“Is It Really So Strange?”

“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.”

“Shoplifters Of The World Unite.”

Five Smiths songs. Betcha you’re kicking yourself for not making the drive to Hamilton now.

After dropping so many of the “oldies” as Mozzer so quaintly referred to them, let’s face it, any sort of objective criticism went out the window. And there were more than a few things which could have flown back in Morrissey’s face this night: He chose to play the steeltown of Hamilton rather than Toronto, a mere hour away (but now that I think about it, Moz has always had a strange working-class fixation despite his pure bourgeois ponce). He has no record label, largely due to the fact his last record, Maladjusted, was truly horrible. And, at 40 or so, Moz isn’t exactly the winsome young turk that made sexually ambiguous hearts flutter back in The Smiths days.

Still, by about the third song in, all of the potential black marks against this show were rendered moot, showing just what kind of performance Stephen Patrick could put on.

Moz started out slowly, with a three-pack of mid-tempo numbers that included “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” and “I Am Hated For Loving.” They were warmly received and prompted the obligatory surge of Moz diehards to the front of the stage, which was surprisingly easy considering that Hamilton Place is a soft-seat venue (and yes, everybody was standing throughout the show, something I’m not sure would have happened if Moz had played in the more dour surroundings of Massey Hall in Toronto).

Things really got going, however, when the festivities were sped up with “Billy Budd” and “November Spawned A Monster.” By this time Moz had launched his first sweaty t-shirt into the crowd and had his first stage-invader.

Throughout it all, Moz was peppering the crowd with witty banter, coy lines and even some jokes. He was laughing and jovial, and it truly was a departure from his customary tortured writhing. That injection of humour just may have been what helped get him over this night as well. We know Morrissey’s days of playing to 12,000 at Maple Leaf Gardens are over, and you have to admit he’s haggaring somewhat. But he’s smart enough to know that if he’s getting his people to not only travel an hour from Toronto to see him, but drop $40 for the privilege of doing so, he better do more than leave them stewing in a nostalgic fog recalling how that special boy or girl broke their heart.

I must say though, that nostalgic fog felt pretty good when the band broke into Smiths’ classic “Half A Person.” Like a bolt of electricity, this instantly sent a shock through the crowd. At this point, there were no more questions about Moz’s performance or appearance. Everybody was in the palm of his hand. From there, the crowd lapped up “Hairdresser On Fire” (turned into a faux rip on London, Ontario) and “Boxers” before a tempo change once again with “Now My Heart Is Full.”

With the crowd firmly hooked, the stagelights turned a blaring red and Moz entered into “Meat Is Murder.” If the first half of the show was about a friendlier, Moz-as-entertainer vibe, “Meat Is Murder” brought back all the morbid loathing that drew all those lonely-yet-haughty-types to The Smiths so long ago in the first place. Wrenching and poignant, it would have made a fine conclusion to the evening, except there was still more to come.

A crowd-stoking “Is It Really So Strange?” and “Alma Matter” closed off the regularly scheduled program for the evening. But when Moz and the boys re-emerged at the encore to perform “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” and “Shoplifters Of The World Unite,” the crowd broke into their biggest singalong of the whole evening in addition to prompting a renewed rush of stage invaders.

It was something of an abrupt end considering Moz had only just set the assembled masses into a frenzy, but you’re not going to hear much complaining. About the only thing that could have made the night better would have been a double shot of “Pretty Girls Make Graves” and “Panic.” And besides, how many times are you ever going to hear the Moz play five Smiths songs again?

This review was originally published February 18, 2000 via Chart Communications.

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